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Published: November 27th 2013
First Luda suggested our going to Goa for the wedding trip but we couldn't because of my passport. Some assholes in world governments have decided it so that I need to have SIX months (or THREE months, not less, very few countries allow border crossing almost until the actual passport expiry) of passport validity upon returning to my native land. So, my passport is officially valid till 25.02.2014 but it can be better used in the toilet than at a national border. We might have gone to Goa, or other interesting lands (we discussed and discarded many) but, for beach vacation, we chose Thailand (I needed to have only two months of passport validity, thank them very much).
There is nothing easier than planning an individual trip in that part of Asia, I think, but we chose to buy an agency tour for ten days (Luda is anxious to go anywhere on our own, except Paris may be) including charter flight, accommodation with breakfast, insurance, transfer from airport to hotel – arranged and paid entirely via the travel company website. All in all, including the expenses on site, we spent some 3000 dollars. The trip would be a
failure for myself because I had too much translation work and Luda’s spirits were spoilt by the hotel room. We chose Pattaya because sources said it had good climate and the rain season would be over by November. I now realize that the tour should have been selected more carefully, but let bygones be bygones.
After the wedding in the company of nearest and dearest (I liked everything very much) I went to Moscow to see off my mother and brother, while Luda joined me later, and we went to the airport.
Our charter flight was scheduled at midnight and lasted for some 9 hours (I was not bored for a second because I had my mp3 player with me). There was a plane crash recently in Russia which shook me to the heart, though I usually care little about accidents and am not much afraid of flying (what happens, happens). We had two meals during the flight. Hundreds of Russian people go to Thailand each day, if not thousands (I think they are really in thousands). So much the better for Thailand, from the economical viewpoint but may be they are already tired
of being infested with tourists. There was a long queue at the passport control and we had no pen (it is so essential to have a pen to fill in the immigration card). In the airport we were met by company’s representatives, boarded the bus (we were the last persons) and soon stopped at a shop. Luda felt very good in the warm air and said it reminded her of her childhood (spent in Kazakhstan, Karaganda). As I watched the houses and buildings of Pattaya I immediately remembered Kathmandu (the only Asian capital I’ve seen), the most conspicuous sight being the electric wires hanging in bundles on posts. It was explained to us that most wires are not working, but simply hang there (the wires are hanging, so let them hang) and new ones are then added. There were lots of cars in rather narrow streets and I got a bit annoyed because we took many tourists to their hotels before finally arriving to our own.
From the large bus we changed to a small mini-bus (the customary practice of taking tourists from hotels in minibuses to a large one, no doubt because of
narrow streets) and soon entered Sawasdee Seaview hotel. I cursed myself a lot for booking that hotel, because, though if you really only sleep at the hotel and spend few hours in the room, it’s all right. We could book only a very cheap hotel because a lot of money was spent on the wedding. The worst thing was my work, there were lots of it (several bulky translations), and no table in the room! Besides, it was very damp, hot, and noisy outside. Our first room was horrible (with windows facing the inner yard, so stuffy even I, a strong man, could not bear it). The next morning we changed the room for a better one (I tipped the reception girl 100 baht, she later even offered us a deluxe room for an extra price, but Luda disliked it). I cannot even imagine why I booked a hotel without a swimming pool. On the whole, this is the end of my lamentations and I’ll be more reasonable next time. The hotel personnel seemed not too keen on helping and not too welcoming, but that did not bother me much.
Central Festival, Food and Shopping, Massage
The hotel’s location, nevertheless, is excellent, about 2-3 minutes from the beach and several hundred meters away from many shopping malls. My favourite is the Central Festival, with the Hilton Hotel towering over it. Though the beach is not perfect, it is not a problem, because there are good places within the settlement, and isles. One of the ships drowned while we were there killing 5 or 6 people.
We went to Central Festival almost every day for lunch and other shopping matters, e.g. there is a photo shop where we made photos for visas. The food court in the mall operates by the ‘cash card’ principle which you replenish and give to cashiers when ordering. I hated shopping in such climate, somehow it does not combine well with beaches and hot sun. We bought slippers, bathing suit, shorts, souvenirs, umbrellas (it rained during two days), a foot massage device. Luda also had twenty minutes of fish peeling at the mall, me being rather disinclined to fishes, though she tried to persuade me because the procedure was pleasant and fun.
During the second day of our stay, we bought several excursions from our travel agency, I was strongly
opposed to any business with street agencies, at least I knew well what I was paying for, be a double or a triple price. Upon our return to Russia, we heard about two or three accidents with buses. We bought excursions to Nong Nooch (for me), Wat Yan (for me), to Bangkok, Cambodia and Koh Samet (for both). Somehow, during this stay, I did not even bother to walk the city and find some sights (there are a couple, not many).
We also had a brief walk to… Walking Street, but soon returned to the hotel on the tuk-tuk (the public transportation vehicle). Walking Street is famous, but we did not explore it further.
In this section I also included Thai massage – Luda went to two sessions and enjoyed it a lot, and then asked me to join. It was the oil kind of massage performed for an hour and we had it in the same room. I liked the procedure, especially the absence of pain. For such modest prices!
My mistake in choosing a hotel was the failure to read about Pattaya's hotels and beaches in advance. I might have
found about Wongamat beach, located off centre, with wider and better sand strip, and fewer people. We drove there from Central Festival mall on a taxi and Luda was very glad to bathe there, me too. We observed from the taxi window that the area was cleaner and quieter with no wires hanging all over. We stayed until the sun began to set, and were back to the hotel by five. We overpaid a tuk-tuk and later Luda learned that, if you don’t ask the driver the price and don’t take it as a taxi, it cost only 10 Baht.
I generally dislike sea swimming because of big waves and salty water.
In each country I try to select some books (in English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese). Luda opted for the beach, this time within the centre, and meanwhile I went to a bookshop. I bought language textbooks, Lao, Burmese, Thai and Cambodian for beginners (I am sure very few people realize how truly hard it would be to learn them all to an intermediate level). In Russia, obtaining such books would be very expensive. I do not say I’ll be able to learn the
languages, because they each have their own system of writing, tones, but I will try at least to learn the alphabet. I feel uncomfortable when I cannot read even the simplest signboard in the local language. My native language is Russian, so it’s a hard task to learn the said languages via English.
I also found via web a nice and large Canterbury Tales Bookshop where books are very dusty (I wanted to buy cheap Stephen King books, but instead found less dusty Herbert Wells and Agatha Christie). There are also shelves with books in Dutch, French, and a great many English books whose authors were unknown to me (I read 99%!c(MISSING)lassics).
Wat Yan and Karen
I looked forward to this excursion. There was a bit of misunderstanding with excursions, dates were mixed up, and I was awakened at 8 o’clock by telephone ringing and informing me about the pickup. I rushed down and quite soon the bus took us to the temples. Wat Yannasangvararam is not far from the city and includes several temples showcasing the religions of Thailand, China, and India. We visited two temples. The first temple, comprising three levels, was
less interesting than the second, a Chinese one, featuring unique exhibits from China: bronze statues of real and mythical persons from Chinese epos, and statues of Shaolin warriors caught in combat maneuvers. The guide told that if we wanted to take a picture with those statues, we had to assume the same position. I visited a small detached building with wood carving. The temple, of course, immediately forced me to think about China and a possible visit there… Most of all, I was impressed by the many-handed god and the Laughing Buddha. Looking at him, I felt all positive.
After the temples, we drove to Khao Chi Chan Mountain with its rock image of Gold Buddha 160 meters high, conceived in 1996 for the 50th
anniversary of Thailand’s king, Rama IX. Then we drove to Karen Village, which I was looking forward to even many days before departure. Of course I cannot explain why long-necked women should be of interest to me, I somehow remember them from my childhood, from a book perhaps. The village is very small, the main activities are souvenir selling to tourists, weaving of scarves and national elements of clothes. The women presented a short
dance with coloured ribbons. There are many versions of why they wear rings, to name a few: protection against beasts of prey (amulets), protection against kidnapping by other peoples – the rings are supposed to make women less attractive, or, vice versa, use as an adornment (the longer the neck, the prettier the woman). We’ll leave the women to themselves, and not discuss the good and bad of it, and drive further, to our final destination – Pattaya’s floating market. Damn this shopping, but the site is worth a visit. There one can buy lots of things, eat lots of things, and drink lots of things. It is colourful and unusual.
A great shock awaited me when I returned to the hotel. My laptop cable went broke. It wouldn’t work. I couldn’t be calm and reasonable because of translation work, so I rushed to Central Festival to its electronic market. The shop assistant told me they had no cables and then babbled something I did not understand. I decided to try to find an electronic market in the vicinity, failed, and only after some 40 minutes it occurred to me to return to the hotel and search the web
for information. It proved perfect, I found Tuk.Com, went to this supermarket and bought a cable for 800 Baht.
The Lost Bangkok, Nong Nooch and Quarrel
I wanted to go Nong Nooch park and then changed my mind (guess the reason). Luda would go instead of me, but the excursion was cancelled because of heavy rain – I guess the park would be very slippery. The rain continued for a long time, and finished only on the next day. I now skip two days, the 9th
of October, spent in Siem Reap, and proceed with our quarrel, into details of which I need not go; finally we managed to make up.
We never saw anything of Bangkok except the airport. The guide booked us a wrong excursion (including some shows, shopping etc – called Bangkok Exclusive) but we needed the tour of historical Bangkok. In the morning, I boarded the bus (Luda refused to go at the very last moment because of our quarrel) but soon learned it was the wrong one, and asked the accompanying guide to stop the bus. Later in the day our hotel guide sorted it all out, asked
our forgiving, and returned the money. I was so disappointed at seeing no Bangkok – like I’ve not been in Thailand!
It was a good day on a not too perfect beach. First, a bus took us to the wharf, we took our seats and life jackets in a small speedboat, but the whole group (some 40 persons) was shocked at seeing the blasted section of the beach offered to us – with a noticeable amount of dirt, on the very end of a long and better strip of sand, and thus people started grumbling and complaining and cursing the … not the travel company, but the guide. I myself was shocked and me and Luda went away to find a better place. The fun of it is that such a place was not far away, where chaise longues were free of charge. This was a perfect beach day, with sun grilling us like chickens in an oven. We both have our skin peeling still (as of November 27th
). The water was very warm and the sand white. But, definitely, if one wants peaceful and lonely beach rest, Koh Samet is not the best
We returned home on November 13th
, there was an immense queue at check-in, Luda and I quarreled again a bit and so had different places. We made up at the passport control. During the flight, I read Stevenson’s Treasure Island, an excellent book, and fell asleep only shortly before landing. To sum it up, it was not my best trip, but all is well that ends well.
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